Body image is the mental picture we have about the way we think we look or how our body functions. Positive body image is feeling comfortable about how we look and/or function. Negative body image is when we feel uncomfortable about how we look and/or function. Body Anxiety can be a physiological reaction felt in the body as a result of negative body image, interpersonal and social dynamics that cause worry or harm such a threat to safety. View the sections below for more in-depth information about a variety of body image topics including resources.

What is Trauma? 

Trauma can result from an event, a series of events, or a set of circumstances that are physically harmful, emotionally harmful, or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on one’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. Trauma is common after experiencing interpersonal violence.  

What’s the connection?

Trauma can trigger a negative body image. For example, one may develop a critical self-view, seek ways to gain control over their bodies through disordered eating, or attempt to make themselves seem less attractive to avoid attention. Often, we only seek help to cope with negative body image, but it is important to also address the underlying trauma to strengthen long-term healing. 


Recognizing impacts of trauma on body image

Memories of traumatic experiences, which are often body-related, may lead to rejection or withdrawal from the body. This means that one may not fully see their body as their own, be present or aware of what is going on within their body or treat their own body as an object – self-objectification. Dissociation from one’s body is a form of survival. This can be particularly true of people who experience childhood sexual assault.  

Withdrawing from the body can make it easier to participate in harmful behavior. Behaviors that inhibit your ability to adjust to situations can paradoxically serve as a means of coping unaddressed trauma. Disordered eating, for example, can provide some form of relief from suffering either by managing symptoms of trauma or as a coping mechanism in dealing with unresolved or unrecognized trauma.  

We must note that symptoms of trauma can often be compounded for people with marginalized identities. For example, racial battle fatigue or transphobic violence can deepen the impact when someone experiences interpersonal violenceThe compounding trauma can have many negative impacts including a negative self-view.   

Impact of interpersonal violence on body image

Sexual assault, rape, relationship violence, and stalking are just a few experiences that can lead to trauma or PTSD. The experience of trauma or PTSD after sexual assault or dating violence can lead to disordered eating. Eating disorders related to sexual abuse can be coping mechanisms like other forms of self-harm that are meant to help create a sense of control. Sexual trauma, specifically, may cause body image issues partly related to the critical self-view that can develop after sexual trauma.  For example, some survivors may wish to be thin or gain weight to reduce attractiveness. Some eating disorders can be linked to self-protection rather than an intent to self-harm. Symptoms of bulimia, for example, can numb emotions and nervous systems and, therefore, protect the victim from feeling further pain.  

What is disordered eating/eating disorder? 

Eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food relationships that can have life-threatening consequences 3. We must emphasize that the presence of disordered eating is not necessarily tied to someone negative opinion of their own body. These habits can develop for a variety of reason – such as a means of coping with stress or trauma.  

Follow the link to visit EDCare’s website for more information on common eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia: https://eatingdisorder.care/anorexia/. 

There are medical and non-medical means of treating and healing from an eating disorder. Medical means are often promoted, but these can come with significant financial costs and may be inaccessible for a variety of reasons. However, there are optionsBelow are just a few. Click the links to visit respective resources’ website.   

  • Eating Disorders Team at CSU Health Network
    • Individual counseling is available for students experiencing concerns with disordered eating (bulimia, anorexia nervosa, binging and purging, use of laxatives or diet pills). Staffed by a registered dietitian with experience in treating eating disorders, these counseling sessions can help students establish healthy dietary practices and manage their health and well-being. 
    • Website: https://health.colostate.edu/nutrition-consultation-disordered-eating/
  • EDCare Denver
    • Eating disorder treatment center in Denver that uses an evidence-based approach to facilitate recovery, so patients can regain an authentic quality while minimizing the chances of relapse. 
    • Website https://eatingdisorder.care/ 

Also, check out the Resources section for periodically updated guide to resources at CSU, Front Range area, and online. 

(Click the links to visit respective resources’ online)

Disordered Eating

  • Nutrition Consultation for Disordered Eating at CSU Health Network. 
    • Individual counseling is available for students experiencing concerns with disordered eating (bulimia, anorexia nervosa, binging and purging, use of laxatives or diet pills). Staffed by a registered dietitian with experience in treating eating disorders, these counseling sessions can help students establish healthy dietary practices and manage their health and well-being. 
    • Website: https://health.colostate.edu/nutrition-consultation-disordered-eating
  • EDCare (Denver). 
    • An eating disorder treatment center in Denver, Colorado Springs, Kansas City, and Omaha that uses an evidence-based approach to facilitate recovery, so patients can regain an authentic quality while minimizing the chances of relapse. 
    • Website: https://eatingdisorder.care/screening-tool/
  • Sage and Spoon (online only).
    • This support group was created by Nalgona Positivity Pride.  Eating disorders and disordered eating in communities of color have long gone undetected and untreated by the larger ED recovery professional world. This group was formed to create a space and an opportunity for healing for the communities that are continuously left behind. This group was formed with the belief that eating disorders (ED) & disorderly eating are linked to historical oppression and current systems of oppression such as racism, colonialism, homophobia, and sexism. 
    • Website: http://edsupportgroup.weebly.com/
  • RAMSAgainstHunger. 
    • The goal of Rams Against Hunger at Colorado State University is to serve as emergency food relief for Colorado State University undergraduate students experiencing food insecurity. Students may engage in one of many programs through RAMS Against Hunger. Visit the website for more information.  
    • Website: https://lsc.colostate.edu/slice/slice-engagement/rams-against-hunger/

Body Image

  • CSU Health Network (CSU Fort Collins campus). 
  • CSU Counseling Body Positive Group. 
    • Do you find yourself thinking a lot about your weight, body shape, or body size? Does planning around calories, food, and “making up” for what you eat seem to consume a lot of your time? Do you often find yourself feeling guilty, ashamed, or comparing your appearance to others and always seeming to fall short? Then, the Body Positive group is right for you! In this group, you will be able to both give and receive support in a safe space from people struggling with the very same issues as you learn more about body image, begin to change unhealthy behaviors, and develop greater self-esteem. You are not alone! 
    • Website: https://health.colostate.edu/about-counseling-services/

Exclusively Online